Tuesday, 9 October 2012

Lost in Translation

Part of my day job is delivering training courses.  It's something that I started doing after becoming a freelancer and is one of my favourite things to do as it plays to my love of standing up in front of a crowd (see Tonight Matthew....) and helping other people.  It also offers the opportunity for new and interesting experiences like the time I delivered a course in Prague.

I had a class of 25 people from 7 different countries to train, all of whom spoke English as their second language.  We calculated that between them they spoke 13 different languages - and I spoke just the one.  It was nerve-wracking at first but with some patience, willingness, and good humour, we spent the first day together discussing the finer points of financial statements and I went back to the hotel feeling it had been a good job, well done.

With the evening to myself and the hotel boasting a gym and pool I thought I'd head downstairs for a swim.  The guy on reception informed me that there was an aqua aerobics class taking place but that I didn't have to participate if I didn't want to.  I only wanted to do a few lengths but the 'pool' as it turned out was only 10 meters long and full of women waiting for their workout to begin.  As I couldn't very well hop on an exercise bike in my swimming costume without causing hilarity or offence, and as the aqua aerobics instructor was motioning for me to take an empty spot between two depressingly attractive Czech ladies I had no choice but to join in.

Tables now turned from the day's training, I had to rely on reading the instructors movements to tell me precisely how I was supposed to combine the floats, weights, and arm and leg movements to exercise without drowning myself.  He stood poolside, shouting instructions in Czech and showing us what we were supposed to be doing.  The challenge (apart from the language barrier) was that he was on 'dry land' and we were in the pool so when we were supposed to be lifting two legs, he could only lift one.  Once I caught on to this fact things started to go a little better and the rest of the lesson passed without incident or embarrassment.

Impromptu aerobics over with I thought I'd treat myself to a sauna but what I had failed to remember is that we in the UK are a somewhat uptight nation and of course, the way you sauna throughout the rest of Europe is in the nude.  All I can say is thank heavens for glass doors as it afforded me the opportunity to see the occupants and make a quick swerve away from the door with a look of mild alarm on my face rather than entering a sauna full of butt-naked people.  The swerve did not go unnoticed however, and through that one movement and without a word spoken I was saying "I AM BRITISH AND I DO NOT SAUNA IN MY BIRTHDAY SUIT!". 

Think this was the last of my communication challenges that day?  Think again...

The presenter's friend
After having some dinner and returning to my room I thought I'd check my presentation slides for the following day.  Now, one of the most useful items you can have as a presenter or trainer is a 'clicker'.  It gives you the freedom to move about the room and control the presentation rather than having to stay at your laptop.  It is a key piece of equipment for me and as I was wondering up and down my hotel room practising, the clicker stopped working.  Not good.  I figured out that it had run out of juice and so called reception to explain that I specifically needed two AAA batteries.  They said they would check and duly called me back to say 'yes, they did have some and would I like to come down and collect them?'.  I dashed down, the receptionist handed them over and said I was very lucky as they were the last two and then gave me a bit of a funny look that involved a half-smile and a raised eyebrow.  I smiled broadly, thanked her profusely and then skipped off back to my room. And then I realised what that funny look was for.  It was 10.00pm and I had dashed down to reception to collect some AAA batteries and been really happy about getting them.  I didn't tell her I had a broken clicker - but that look on her face told me exactly what she thought the batteries were for.....

No comments:

Post a Comment